Milo has a giant melon head. He’s the missing Peanuts cartoon character, a caramel apple, a strung bead. He’s tall for his age, and dense as teeth. He weighs in at 106 pounds. If you’ve seen him, that number likely surprises you. He doesn’t look that heavy, but he is, indeed, that heavy. He’s solid, what used to be called, “big boned.” Naked he is round, fleshy around the middle, soft in the upper arms and upper legs. He is, in his own words, “plump.” And, as he enthusiastically told me,”so are you Mommy.”
My zero-body-fat-works-out-for-7-hours-at-a-time athlete of a daughter took it upon herself to address our shared plumpness. “Why don’t you two work out together.”
Simple. Brilliant. Milo and I headed to Target and found a decently priced dance workout for our dormant Wii. And for a solid week he and I found an hour every afternoon to alternate between Latin dance and cardio boxing. We stumbled into each other, we missed a good deal of the choreography, we tripped and fell. We sweated. And sweated.
We banished my daughter from watching us, even if she kept her mocking to herself. This was for the plump ones, this as for me and Milo. It was fun and it was working.
Then I had to go out of town for a week for work. I managed to not find the time to exercise past walking as much as possible. But Milo carried on. My husband reported that Milo had to be convinced to STOP latin dancing and cardio boxing. The program came with a scale, a calorie counter and a calculator that tells you, not only how many calories you just burned but what the calories equal in terms of food — 4 saltine crackers, or a bar of dark chocolate. This appealed to Milo’s love of math, and to his literal mind. Work out for an hour at the medium level — kill a bowl of pretzels. Work out harder, for longer, and there goes your favorite burger. While I was out of town, Milo went on a manic exercise binge. When I came home he sat me down and talked me through his progress. He lifted his shirt and slapped his stomach. “My belly even sounds less plump!”
Since we started Wii dancing, Milo has taken exercise to heart, and mind. He is serious. Crazy serious. He now regularly interrupts his screen time to walk around the block, or to ask me to walk around the block with him, or to run around the block. He runs home from school, uphill. He asks for celery and carrots in his lunch. He admires himself in the mirror, flexing his biceps.
My relationship to Milo’s body has been fraught. Ever since he could walk he found most touches unbearable. I taught myself to sniff rather than kiss him. Only while he slept could I hold his foot in my palm, or press my cheek to his. He’s still sensitive, and I’m still cautious. But Milo’s relationship to his own body amazes me. He is less afraid of it on all levels — that it will feel pain, that it will cause pain — and that it is out of his control. Since he discovered exercise Milo is thrilled to have a body. He’s happy to bust a move, climb a boulder, carry a bag of groceries, race you up a hill. This morning, when he danced his way down the front steps and to the car, his messy, snarly hair in his eyes, his head thrown back, his crooked teeth flashing, he looked less than plump and more than happy, he looked healthy and fully embodied.